NSW Police Offer $1M Reward For Info On Gay Hate Killing Of Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson

NSW Police have announced that they are offering a $1 million reward for information leading to the killer or killers of Scott Johnson, who fell to his death from a cliff in Sydney‘s North Head 30 years ago, in what has since been deemed an anti-gay hate crime.

Scott Johnson was a 27-year-old mathematics PhD student visiting Australia from the US. His naked body was found by fishermen at the base of a 60-metre cliff on December 10, 1988, and the death was originally ruled a suicide, but a 2017 coronial inquest found that foul play was involved.

It is now believed that Johnson was a victim of a wave of homophobic hate crimes that swept Sydney during the 1980s. This seems especially likely given that the cliff-top area at North Head, where his clothes were found neatly folded, was a known meeting spot for gay men seeking sex.

In his finding last year, State Coroner Michael Barnes said that Johnson was likely pushed from the cliff by an assailant or assailants motivated by hatred of gay men, or that he fell when trying to escape an attack.

His brother Steve Johnson, a successful tech entrepreneur, flew to Sydney to stand beside Police Commissioner Mick Fuller for the announcement of the $1 million reward – ten times the original $100,000 on offer – and a fresh investigation into the death.

Johnson, who has spent a substantial amount of his own money seeking answers in his brother’s death, told media:

“Someone knows what happened to Scott, either because they were present or because they heard of what happened from others who were present … It is likely that those who were involved in Scott’s death would have bragged about it given the culture of gay-hate amongst groups in Sydney at the time. It’s 30 years to the day since Scott’s death. I encourage anyone who has any information to come forward and provide it.”

Commissioner Fuller said that the death of Scott Johnson is one of the more challenging investigations that NSW Police have faced, in part because of the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward, and he hopes that the increased reward will provide “the final motivation needed” for someone to speak up.